Murders and shootings are up in New York City, and it’s not just a ‘spike’, analyst says: ‘We’re in uncharted waters.\

  • New York City murders are up by 33 percent and the number of victims shot has doubled.
  • Crime analysts were expecting the shutdown earlier this year to result in a sharp drop in crime, but it has since recovered from a few slow month and jumped far higher than normal.
  • A former NYPD analyst says COVID-19, political unrest, and economic depression might play a role in the data.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

When New York City shut down in March, crime stat analysts watched in awe as homicide and shooting counts kept falling, Christopher Herrmann, a former Crime Analyst Supervisor with the New York City Police Department, told Insider.

"We were all anticipating a huge decrease in crime. Nobody is on the subway anymore. Everyone is working remotely," Herrmann, who now teaches at John Jay College, said.  "'How much lower can it go? How much lower can it go?' That was sort of the mantra online with my little group of crime geeks." 

When summer rolled around, though, the violence returned in earnest. And in addition to the expected uptick that comes each year during warmer weather, the city made up for the crime that didn't occur in March, April, and May, Herrmann explained. Then it went even further.

"We normally see a 30% increase in shootings in the summer. This year it was a 150%, 180% increase. It was just out of control."

As of Sunday, there was a 33.2% increase in the number of murders compared to the same time last year, according to city crime statistics.

The number of shooting victims has also jumped 102%, which Herrmann says is even more telling.

"We hit the homicide mark for last year a couple of weeks ago," he said.

It is an unprecedented time in New York City for so many reasons: A pandemic, anti-racism and police reform protests, and a presidential election have fallen into the same time frame. 

All of these, as well as recent bail reform efforts — which have since been rolled back — may have played some role in the rising crime, Herrmann believes.

"Obviously, COVID plays a factor," Herrmann said. "There's the unemployment, the economic impact of COVID.  There's the mental health impact of COVID, with people losing jobs and people not going to school." 

Police hold off protesters during a solidarity rally for George Floyd on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Wong Maye-E/AP

The number of shootings in New York City so far this year is more than twice as high as all of 2019

The uptick in violence has been felt across the five boroughs.

In July, two men approached a group having a cookout in Brooklyn and opened fire, striking three men and a 1-year-old boy. The baby, who was shot in the abdomen, died, USA Today previously reported.

On Sunday, a 15-year-old turned himself in for the killing of  26-year-old Tyrell Williams in Manhattan.

On Oct. 11, Williams was standing on a corner in the East Village when a young man, who has since been identified by police as Qadar Marshall, walked up just before 1:30 a.m. and fired two gunshots at him, the Daily News reported. Medics rushed him to the hospital, but he couldn't be saved.

On Monday, a man waited for his wife outside her apartment on Greenwich and Morris streets in Manhattan, slashed her with a knife, and then shot her in the head and torso before turning the gun on himself, ABC 7 reported.  

These victims are among at least 1,569 people who have been shot since the beginning of the year. This same time last year, there were 776 shooting victims.

The NYPD declined to partake in an interview with Insider but said that the department is reassigning officers to areas experiencing upticks in violence, "zeroing in on drivers of crime," and strengthening community relationships to address the issues.

The NYC Police Benevolent Association didn't return Insider's request for comment.

Herrmann, who researched crime data and trends for the NYPD, said that the increase in gun violence in New York, even more than the homicide data, is what's really striking. 

Most NYC homicides are related to gun violence, he said.

"The difference between a shooting and a homicide is only a few inches," Herrmann said.

While there are examples of "innocent bystanders," or even kids, being struck by stray bullets, a majority of the gun violence is exchanged by young men in a small number of low-income neighborhoods, Herrmann said.

The last time there was this number of shootings and murders in New York City it was a summer in the mid-90s. 

"Shootings are doubling what they were last year. That's not what we in the field would say is 'a spike in crime," Herrmann said. "We're in uncharted waters." 

A woman crosses the street in Times Square amid the COVID-19 pandemic on April 30, 2020 in New York City.
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Murder arrests are down this year

This time last year, New York City police had arrested 321 people on murder charges. According to crime data, despite a sharp increase in the number of killings this year, the number of arrests has dropped 7%.

The discrepancy has led some to question whether the NYPD is engaging in an unofficial "work slowdown" — a tactic historically used by the NYPD during times of criticism — in response to police reform calls.

Herrmann doesn't think so because there have been increases in arrests in some areas, like gun crimes and burglary. 

Arrests for other crimes, though — like drugs, gangs, and rape — have decreased in the double digits. 

"If it was an unofficial NYPD slowdown, we would see much higher decreases [in arrests], and decreases across the board," Herrmann said.

Still, when a crime count or percent goes up as much as murder, analysts expect to see the corresponding arrest data to increase as well, "so the NYPD needs to take some ownership of that murder increase/murder arrest decrease disparity," Herrmann said. 

"Again, we are living in COVID times," he added, noting that the department lost more than 40 staff members to the coronavirus. "I probably would not be very proactive with the public, either." 

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